On Jekyll Island, waves lick the 10 miles of beaches as kayaks cut through the salty water, cyclists roll over 20 miles of paved trails, and riders on horseback clop through hushed maritime forests. All visitors to the barrier island can partake in myriad active, relaxing, or educational activities while immersed in its lush natural landscapes, where dunes give way to beaches filled with hermit crabs and shell collecting and where birders clutch binoculars to examine avian habitats and decode gulls' sign language. The island's public golf club, open since 1898, hosts two 18-hole courses and one 9-hole course on manicured greens and rolling terrain. In the summer, the Summer Waves Water Park provides a cool escape from the heat with six slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river. For indoor adventurers, exhibits at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center illuminate the lives of the shelled reptiles, and a museum preserves relics of the wealthy families who used the island as their gilded getaway and a place to bury their expired money. The Jekyll Island Authority oversees all conservation and development on the idyllic island, existing to continually improve the park and its amenities.
St. Simons Island, recently named the third-best island in the country by AOL Travel, is etched with an elaborate network of scenic biking trails, which visitors can explore on a fleet of rental two-wheelers. A web of leisurely tracks weaves through the south end of the resort village, winding along the marshlands coast at East Beach and along the length of Frederica Road. Cyclists can also navigate the island's pearly beaches or traverse the popular airport trail. For a more demanding outing, a 12-mile stretch originating at the northern end of Frederica Road offers wide-open riding, panoramic views, and honey-coated speed bumps.A scenic, 20-mile drive south brings island hoppers to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a marine-turtle rehabilitation, research, and education center located on Jekyll Island. During guided tours, guests explore a host of exhibits on the islands' indigenous reptiles, illuminating the creatures' habits, human efforts to protect them, and findings from ecological and wildlife health research. In addition to sea turtles, the center also nurtures diamondback terrapins, river cooters, and gopher tortoises.
Since 1959, Putt-Putt of Fernandina Beach has hosted friendly rounds of mini golf for families, leagues, and tournaments. Co-owner Aaron Bean was one such player—he began working at the putt-putt location as a teenager and still currently holds the course’s nine-hole record of 10 strokes and most convincing celebratory swan dive into the ocean, which is located just steps away. The course has also tested the putting prowess of players in the 2010 Sonny’s Florida State Putt-Putt Championship and 2011 Southern Putting Tour Championship.
Nestled in the scenic shadows of the Smoky Mountains, Bent Creek Golf Course's 18-hole layout stretches across 6,182 yards of fairways that rise and fall among rolling foothills and pristine valleys. Golf legend and course designer Gary Player made deft use of a babbling mountain stream by running it through the course and seamlessly uniting two distinct nines: a front nine that sprawls across the valley floor and a back nine that roams the hilly mountainside like a forlorn sasquatch. The overall effect is a course that does justice to both the sheer scope of the rising peaks with bottom-up views and the panoramic splendor of Great Smoky Mountains National Park when seen from the cresting hilltops of the back-nine. The inventive layout is perhaps best characterized by the 11th hole, a 362-yard par 4 where a 90-degree dogleg-left plays into a green completely surrounded by the creek's rippling waters. A blend of bent and bermuda grasses grows resiliently for golfers striving to play all year-round, and fragrant wildflowers blossom at every tee to warm the hearts of world-weary nine-irons.
Bent Creek bolsters the pin-hunting prowess of its golfers with a staff of PGA-certified instructors that conducts lessons and presides over the domain of their full-service pro shop. A practice putting green helps players trim their score by reading dicey slopes, and the Creek Side Grill hosts postround revelry and community gatherings to decry the historical hardships of the mashie niblick.:m]]
Course at a Glance: * Designed by three-time Masters and British Open Champion Gary Player * Bermuda-and-bent-grass combination * 18-hole, par 72 course * Length of 6,182 yards from the farthest tees * Three tee options * Link to scorecard
At the tee box on Cimarrone Golf Club's 12th hole, golfers face a dilemma: play a drive safely out to the right—where, at worst, the ball may stray into the rough—or attempt an aggressive shot over the water on the hole's left side, cutting off much of the dogleg and setting up a closer approach. With multiple bending fairways, deep bunkers, and a water hazard or marsh feature on every hole, the 18-hole, 6,891-yard course presents high-risk, high-reward scenarios at nearly every turn, delighting golfers who like to live dangerously and favoring those whose sand wedge moonlights as an actuary.
Before rounds, golfers can warm up swings at the club's driving range, a much-needed confidence booster before taking to the water-laden course or betting that they can outdrive the staff's resident T-shirt cannon.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Length of 6,891 yards from the farthest tees * Course rating of 73.5 from the farthest tees * Slope rating of 137 from the farthest tees * Five tee options * Scorecard
The golfing gurus at Edwin Watts Golf Academy diagnose and correct their students' poor swing and putting habits in an effort to help them improve their shots and lower their scores. In one-on-one swing-analysis sessions, students learn a repeatable swing that eliminates tendencies they may have to slice, hook, push, or pull the ball. A special laser attaches to the end of the player's club and tracks the swing path while JC Video swing-analysis software records the session from two separate angles, lest analysis be thrown off by only looking at the golfer's good side. Putting analysis employs Tomi technology to measure eight separate parameters of the putting stroke, from clubhead orientation at address to swing path and tempo. After swing and putting lessons, students may access the recordings on a password-protected website, so they can forward videos to friends or sports-documentary filmmakers.